NPR and member stations team up on incubation lab to tackle system challenges

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NPR and member stations will begin collaborating next month on short-term product development stints focused on digital engagement, network collaboration and on-demand audio, the network announced Wednesday.

The three six-person teams participating in the Public Radio Incubation Lab will develop and test ideas over four-month periods at NPR headquarters. The teams will comprise both NPR and member station staffers.

“With a mandate to innovate, the Lab’s teams will be charged with advancing actionable, real-world solutions that can benefit the entire digital network of public radio,” NPR said in a press release.

Participants will work full-time on the projects, meeting daily. NPR will invite internal staffers from different divisions to apply to work on the projects, while its Member Partnership team will recommend and coordinate member station participants, according to NPR spokesperson Isabel Lara.

Managers at NPR and participating stations can temporarily fill the vacant roles of team participants while they work on the projects, Lara said. The teams will work under NPR Creative Director Liz Danzico.

The first team will consider ways “to deepen engagement on NPR.org and other digital platforms in order to provide stations with leads for donations and membership,” according to the release. The group will begin meeting March 11.

Following groups will develop “tools and practices” for collaboration among NPR and member stations and ways to strengthen public radio’s “leadership position in the delivery, discovery and monetization of on-demand audio,” according to the release.

NPR designed a new space at its headquarters to foster in-person and remote collaboration. The space in an open area of the network’s offices allows NPR staff to “observe, contribute, and learn from the day-to-day operations of the Lab,” Lara said.

NPR Foundation Trustee Emeritus Bill Poorvu provided seed funding for the project.

The initial team consists of five NPR staffers and one station partner: product designer Katie Briggs, product manager Michael Chaplin, senior software engineer Alberto Vasquez, scrum master and project manager Bradley Evans, data analyst VaNessa LaNier and Jonathan Butler, director of digital strategies at Vermont Public Radio.

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